Games and Why We Play Them

By Macabee Callard

    One of the longest human traditions is the act of playing games and participating in a community with them. Games, like every human tradition, have evolved. They started with participating in a community. But slowly, people have invented games like Solitaire. And then video games, and then they turned some traditional games online so you could play them against the Computer. Game purpose has shifted from a community gathering to enjoyment, in my view. But let’s go back a bit. Why not get some history in, too? Games have been played as long as humans have been around. Mesoamerican ball games, Greek olympics, and medieval tournaments have shaped cultures all around the world. 

Games originally started very physical, but slowly became more and more mental. Chess was invented in the six century in Europe, and shogi was invented in Japan. Various card games sprung from other game traditions, and games slowly evolved. Games like checker and go became board games, and Uno and poker card games. Less and less people were required. People began thinking about games and painting and writing about them in the 19’th century. Paul Cezanne painted The Card Players. Ludwig Wittgenstein defined the word, listing it’s components. But by now, this simple idea has transformed into one of the most prominent activities. There are tons of different kinds of categories: Board games, Card games, Video games, Mental games, Social games… In each of these categories, there are thousands of games. Different purposes, feelings, goals, strategys, and meanings. But all games (besides those about money) have, at this point, one purpose: To entertain. 

Human’s attention spans have gotten shorter and shorter, and mental games have varied completely over time periods. But physical games have not substantially changed over the years, and are very different in that way. They were the first, and were very quickly recognised as something different. So someone gave them a new name: Sports. Sports started serving new purposes. Not just the entertainment of the players, but that of onlookers. Soon enough, this began to become their main purpose. And now we have the NFL, and the NBA, and the MBL. And soon enough, people started doing chess tourneys. And other games began to become more public, for the entertainment of the people. This has helped build culture and nations, for it helps people associate themselves with something famous, and give themselves an identity that everyone will immediately know. “I’m a Bears fan.” “I’m a Lakers fan.” This can help make people respect (or disrespect) you. So, very quickly, games become a much bigger part of society than ever before.

I have been churning out different ideas, and I have come to a conclusion: There are two kinds of games. Sports (entertainment for the onlookers) and regular games (entertainment for yourself

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